A Summer That Won’t Suck, Outing 3


Yesterday we logged just under 100 miles in our adventure down south to San Clemente. This is when we’re happy to have such a fuel-efficient little vehicle, even if Anthony is starting to have difficulty fitting in the back seat. He’s a tall kid.

Today, we headed the opposite direction and hit a few places we hadn’t been to in a long, long time.

First on the list: the historic Original Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles, which was and still is a place where Hollywood luminaries spend their day. It’s not like I would recognize any of today’s stars but it’s cool knowing that folks like Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and The Beatles strolled through there.

And remember when I said we hadn’t been there in a long time? Here’s a shot of Anthony I took the last time we were there. I was testing out a film camera I had recently acquired.

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He doesn’t even remember being there. Honestly, I’m not quite sure it was even in 2009 but I do know it was a long, long time ago when you compare it to the picture I took today:

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A little difference, no?

At any rate, we had planned to arrive at their opening time of 9am. Amazingly, we did just that. If fact we were so early that we parked in the regular parking lot and not the structure at The Grove, a stretch of stores located next to Farmers Market. There aren’t many there that interest me and it’s nowhere nearly as interesting.

Farmers Market, on the other hand, is a photographer’s dream.

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There is color and interesting subject matter everywhere you look. In addition, it’s a place where the art of the hand-painted sign comes alive.

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I love typography and art, so seeing all of these signs is always a real treat. And if the sign wasn’t painted by hand, it looked like it was a remnant of a time when there was still a sense of pride in sign-making, even if machines were starting to have an impact.

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Look at that sign. Those letters look like something from the credits of Gilligan’s Island and they might just serve you drinks in a coconut with a straw. I absolutely love this stuff.

Then, of course, there’s the food.

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We bought a handful of meringue cookies from Normadie Bakery along with a fresh baguette. It was about the cheapest transaction we had while there because most of the other stores are pretty expensive. You know, tourism and all.

Pizza, seafood, Chinese…you name it, they have it. In the end, we opted for Mexican from a place called Loteria Grill. I almost had to – their booth is decorated with the likenesses of cards from the famous game, some of which I’d never seen.

And the food wasn’t too bad, either. Did someone say chicken tacos?

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We stayed just long enough to do a bit of shopping, take an abundance of photos (sorry, my fault), enjoy our lunch, and just be a part of what’s made Los Angeles famous since 1934. But it was getting hot so we decided to move on.

I had asked the family if there was anything in particular they wanted to see in the Hollywood area. They didn’t so with me being familiar with the area, I just went in whichever direction I thought would be interesting.

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Taken by Ann, this shot is of the Jim Henson Company lot. Before that, it was home to A&M Records which was co-founded by Herb Alpert. And while the list or artists who called A&M their label was impressive, this lot was also home to Charlie Chaplin Studios before that. If walls could talk, indeed. (Granted, Chaplin’s films were silent…)

As we meandered our way through Hollywood, the family caught a glimpse of the Hollywood sign and even though we were still way down the hill, they’d never seen it that close. I had to change that.

I kept driving and pointing out places such as Hollywood High School which has its share of famous alumni. Then I got to Beechwood Drive and made a left. That’s the main way to get up there.

And the streets are super-narrow and filled with tourists and people walking/hiking. That’s fine. I knew where I was going.

Once I got to Ledgewood, I made a right and took it as far as I could go which has been a dead end for years. You could once park and take pictures but residents put an end to that a long time ago, so I made a left and wound my way around to a decent vantage point.

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Taken from Lake Hollywood Park, this is about as close as anyone can get (legally at least). And what, you didn’t know there was a lake up in those hills? Silly you.

This was about it for the day. I still had to head over and help Mom move some stuff around her place since they are remodeling her apartment complex. So we hopped on the 101 and headed back home – but I made one more stop.

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Located in Downey, CA, this here is the oldest operating McDonald’s in the country. It was dangerously close to being demolished after the Northridge earthquake but fortunately, was saved. They have menu items most other locations don’t have and their food seems to be better. Must be that oh-too-cool retro vibe.

So by the time we got home, we had logged about another 90 miles in this, A Summer That Won’t Suck.

And so far, every single one has been worth the effort.

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A Summer That Won’t Suck, Outing 2


Happy Friday!

It was most definitely a happy one for me since I used one of my paid Summer Days to extend my Father’s Day/anniversary weekend by one day. And yes, it was worth it.

Today’s adventure took us someplace we had been just a month prior but because Ann wanted a pair of sandals she didn’t get then, we had to make another trip. Fortunately, traffic was extremely light on the way down to San Clemente – it’s about 40 miles from home – and we made incredible time. I was pretty shocked, actually.

Our first stop: the Rainbow Sandals outlet.

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Just look at that fancy, unintentional, not-made-with-an-app lens flare! And that gigantic flip-flop outside the store! In preparation for summer, we all got a new pair – even me, who has enough pairs to last the rest of my life. Plus I got a new wallet. I guess I have a problem.

Once our shopping here was done, we meandered our way up to the top of the hill to the outlet stores where we ate lunch. Granted, there aren’t many stores there but it’s still a nice place to walk around and waste the day. This would explain why we only left with one bag of stuff, all of it purchased at the Nike store. You know. I needed a new pair of running shoes. Or something.

I also checked out the Vans store and came across these that were, unfortunately, a size too big.

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And at $20, they were a freaking steal. Too bad they didn’t fit. I really wanted them.

Just as we decided there was nothing more we wanted to shop for, we made a stop for some frozen yogurt and pretzels. Anthony wanted the yogurt and while I would have gotten some, I was driving and already had my share of dairy product for the day with the pizza we ate for lunch. Lactose intolerance is a lovely thing.

As I was paying for our pretzel nuggets, I spotted a $1 bill on the ground near the register and asked the cashier if they had a tip jar. She said they didn’t so I stuck it in my pocket. I wasn’t going to argue and decided long ago that money found is worth keeping.

With that, we left the outlet from which you can see the ocean. It’s quite lovely.

And it’s where I was driving to next, unbeknownst to the family.

So with the help of Google Maps, we found our way down to Capistrano Beach (yes, it’s close to Mission San Juan Capistrano, also a beautiful place). We had never been there before and thought it would be nice to just have a stroll along the ocean.

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And that $1 bill? It paid for one hour of parking. Perfect! It was long enough for us to enjoy the sound of the crashing waves and take some pictures.

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Selfie stick? Nope. My long arms have been doing the trick since the late ‘90s. And yes, I need to shave.

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It’s scenes like this that make me hesitant to ever leave California, despite its faults. No earthquake puns intended, naturally. But I’ll take my chances with them over any other natural disaster – any day of the week – to call this my backyard.

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Going to the beach was also a great way to break in those sandals.

And yes, I will gather rocks when I go to the beach. I could take home buckets of them if I could since they are all different and appeal to me for different reasons. Today’s trip included these:

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This picture just does not to them justice. The colors are much more vibrant, even more so when glimmering in the sand after being washed over by the tide. You’re just going to have to take my word that they are pretty amazing and will look great on my desk at work.

Anthony swears the light one is quartz. It’s really milky and white, nothing like it looks here. I don’t care whether it is or it isn’t. It’s just cool and I’m okay with that.

After the beach, we stopped by and visited my high school buddy who owns a restaurant in the area. You know, the one I delivered pizza for on occasion? It’s always good to see him and we still have much to talk about even after leaving high school almost 30 years ago.

And that wraps up our Friday.

As for Saturday? It’s not as far but you’ll know when we get there. It’s someplace I haven’t been in years and a real hotspot for tourists. I usually avoid places like that but with this being A Summer That Won’t Suck, I’m pulling out all the stops.

Curious? Follow my Instagram feed and see for yourself. We’ll be there in the morning!

A Summer That Won’t Suck


When I was working at the grocery store, there were a few things I lacked.

First, dignity. There was a time when working such a job was a rather respectable thing to do with people spending a good portion of their lives there, making decent money and having plenty in their pension.

But it’s not like that anymore. New people get nowhere near the same benefits as those who were working before the big strike about a decade ago. It’s just cheap labor for little money, and it’s a completely miserable existence that I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

That said, the other thing I lacked was an income that would allow us to do, well, anything. My paychecks were so microscopic that once the bills were paid, we couldn’t do much of anything besides sit at home. That also meant doing what we had to do in order to stay afloat. Again, a miserable experience.

But of course, things have changed since then.

My new job continues to be a rewarding experience and now that I’m a regular employee (since last February), I get a handful of extra benefits.

One of those benefits is three Summer Days every calendar year. They are paid days off – we still get personal and sick days – that we can use anywhere between the beginning of May to the end of September. It’s probably one of the coolest little perks I’ve had at any job.

So with my paychecks now being, oh, a little more than they used to be, I’ve decided that this will be the year I treat the family to A Summer That Won’t Suck.

I’ve been looking into a lot of different things for us to do this summer, most of which are road trips around the state: San Francisco, San Diego, or just a trip to Los Angeles to see things we might have missed. We’ll gas up the car and see where we end up and I’m sure it’ll be a good time.

Plus, we’re now AAA members!


For preparation, I’ve been searching for destinations on Google Maps and saving them for future reference.

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That way when we’re out somewhere, we can also see what else is in the area and get directions to it. Killing multiple birds with one stone.

I’ve also been doing this for my eventual trip to Japan. This is only Osaka but trust me, there’s much more I’ve saved.

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While a bunch of places are eateries we’ve been wanting to try, there are local attractions that I haven’t been to in decades like the Hollywood Forever Cemetery which is the final resting place of legends such as Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and even two of The Ramones.

And I’ve never really taken the family on a walk of Hollywood Boulevard to be tourists so that might be an option as well.

Either way, the fun begins in a few weeks when I’m using one of my Summer Days to extend the Father’s Day weekend, and this year Father’s Day just happens to fall on the same day as our 23rd anniversary. We’ll be heading down the 5 – we don’t say “Interstate 5” in California, just “The 5/405/605” etc. – to do some outlet shopping and lunch one day, hitting World Famous Farmer’s Market the next, then most likely going for lunch on Sunday for Father’s Day and our anniversary.

This is in addition to the the concerts we will be attending for which I’ve already bought tickets:

  • Strangelove, a Depeche Mode tribute band performing at the OC Fair in July
  • Perfume in August
  • Pet Shop Boys in October (not quite summer but oh well)

Oh yes, the OC Fair will definitely be visited as well. Concert tickets include admission to the fair.

And even if I don’t use a Summer Day, the weekends are still open for any adventure we might want to take on.

Plus with all the overtime I’ve been working lately, it’s practically guaranteed that this summer won’t suck.

I’m ready. We’re ready. Bring it on!

24 Hours of Disneyland


05-19-14-Event-logo-Starting tomorrow at 6am, Disneyland will be open for 24 hours for those who are brave enough to “rock” their Disney Side.

And although I despise the use of “rock” as a verb for donning any article of clothing and successfully gaining the approval of others and, therefore, really dislike this slogan, I will be there with the family. It’s okay if you think I’m nuts because chances are you’re right.

We’re not going because we’re hardcore Disney fanatics. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, being raised in southern California sort of desensitizes you from the ahhh! factor that mostly everyone outside of the state gets when they hear “Disneyland.” It’s just another stop along the 5 Freeway for us in most cases and our Annual Passports* were bought as a way to kill a few Sundays a year when we had nothing else to do.

But there are exceptions, like those who will be camping out starting at midnight tonight waiting to get in at the precise moment the gates open then partake in a marathon park visit for the next solid day.

That’s not me. While I like Disneyland and all that, let’s get something straight: you will never find me camping outside of anyplace for anything. You just won’t. Unless I’m camping for the sake of camping.

We’re going because we were invited to go by a friend who just spoils us too much, but whose spoiling is so appreciated. We simply cannot repay her for what she’s done and continues to do.

At any rate, here are the details of our visit.

It won’t be the full 24 hours. I am working until 7pm on Friday and Anthony has school, so right away there’s a good portion of the 24 hours cut from our visit. I plan on meeting the family and friends at the park around 8pm provided traffic around the park is not winding down every possible side street like an anaconda.

Lines won’t be an issue for us. While the crowds may be huge and lines long, the one thing those who camped out will still have to do is wait or, as they most likely will do, use a FastPass. Not us. We will once again have our VIP Guide giving us quick access to all attractions. He will be ours from 4pm – 4am so we need to cram in as much fun as we can in those 12 hours. He can also schedule prime seating for everything going on for this special event.

I am going all night. I have made it my quest to uh…rock my Disney Side from the time I arrive until 6am the following morning. I want to see how tired people are as they drag themselves down Main Street. I want to see the sun come up over the Matterhorn or Space Mountain. I want to see World of Color at 3am, ride the Haunted Mansion at midnight, eat a churro at 4:47 in the morning. I’m going to do this, even if the family decides they’ve had enough.

We have a room. If the family chooses to end their quest early, they’ll have a room waiting for them at the Disneyland Hotel. And when I drag myself in there at 6am, I can crash for about 5 then start to pack up for our 11am check-out time.

It will be social. What good would an event like this be without spamming your social network feed with umpteen photos? I plan on posting pictures/tweets on Instagram and/or Twitter at every ride we conquer along with the time we are in line, for as long as my phone’s battery holds a charge, with whatever hashtags are pertinent to the event. #disneyside seems to be the only one I’ve heard of as of now.

I have no idea what we’re in for but rest assured you will see it as it happens on the aforementioned networks. Wish us luck!

And hey, I think I’ll wear this loud shirt from 1990 – Disneyland’s 30th anniversary – to the event.

Or should I *cringe* rock something else?

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*We’ve since abandoned renewing our APs as they because way too much for us. Being unemployed didn’t help matters.

The Disneyland VIP Experience


To paraphrase the Walt Disney quote, it was all started by a text.

On Friday afternoon, Ann received a text from longtime friend Colleen (pseudonym). She said she was in town for the week and had a question for her: would you and the family like to join us at Disneyland on Saturday?

We immediately thought, “With what money?” Ann got another text explaining that it was complimentary. Then another stating it would be 100% free. With every text, Ann asked if this would cost us anything.

The conversation ended with Colleen texting, “Ann, I don’t play.”

She also mentioned that it wasn’t just a trip to Disneyland. Colleen had booked a VIP Tour Guide for the duration of her family’s trip. For those who don’t know, a VIP Tour Guide is a Disneyland Cast Member – they wear a blue-and-red plaid vest – who escorts celebrities and other dignitaries around the Park so that they can get immediate access to all attractions.

Meals would also be included. We would pay nothing.

Our jaws dropped. In this, the third day of the new year, we’re getting some incredibly awesome news. This was bigger than getting my picture printed in the newspaper. Big, I tells ya.

Ann confirmed that we would go then asked about parking.

We would park in the valet of the Disneyland Hotel and charge it to Colleen’s room. Well, okay then…

Ann called Colleen ahead of our arrival so that she could meet us at the hotel. By the time the car was taken by the valet attendant, she was waiting for us.  She said that her family was still eating breakfast and asked if we could wait which is exactly what we did. Once finished, we met them outside the hotel and wandered over to Disneyland.

It was a horrible trip: maybe a quarter-mile walk through Downtown Disney. The Monorail, adjacent to the hotel, could have taken us but it was down for temporary maintenance. I wasn’t complaining.

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